It sounded like an easy way to sneak in a midnight nap.
The boys could go on a quest of crayfish along the Kankakee River in the middle of the night, and I could sleep in my chair by the campfire with the stragglers.
Happiness all around.
Friday was close to perfect, beautiful sunset over the river, then the full moon rising over the river. Cool enough to hold the mosquitos at bay.
I figured one of the kids was enough of an outdoors sort that they would at least come back with some crayfish.
And I would awaken with a grumbled ``way to go.''
Oh, they got crayfish.
Junior, who lives down the street and is the favorite running mate of our oldest boy, is the kind of kid who shows up on our porch some days and asks to borrow the fishing net, or the minnow bucket.
Then disappears on missions to the town pond for various specimens of critters.
And returns with all kinds of wild stuff.
So I thought maybe they would come back with a few crayfish and gave them an insulated coffee cup with a screw-on lid.
Half dozing, while my younger boy stirred the fire, I remembered the first time I caught crayfish.
It was in Powell Creek, a fairly good trout stream in the mountains of central Pennsylvania. Considering it was some 40 years ago, it's amazing how sharp the memory was.
We were dropping an older brother off for church camp. I might have been 8 or 9, and i disappeared into the creek and began flipping rocks and catching crayfish. My dad was impressed enough to encourage me.
My most intense impression was how fast the crayfish moved, and how the big ones actually hurt if they pinched.
One of the younger boys returned first, awakening me, and said they had more than 50 crayfish.
I translated that to mean they had a good dozen or so.
Then the other man came back from checking on them and said they had about 50.
And they did, some 58 when they counted them twice on a sheet of plastic.
They wanted to use them for fishing in the morning, and we did to the tune of one smallmouth.
But there was enough left for Junior to take some home.
I hoped we were strictly legal. The last thing I need in my life is getting busted on some game-law technicality.
So i checked the rule book. It's also online.
The key part is
``Crayfish, except endangered or threatened species, may be taken for bait, using legal sized cast nets, shad scoops, and minnow seines, provided that they are not sold or bartered. All cast nets shall not be larger than 8 feet in diameter or of a mesh size not larger than 3/8 inch bar measurement. All shad scoops shall not be larger than 30 inches in diameter or of a mesh size not larger than 1/2 inch bar measurement or longer than 4 feet in length. Minnow seines shall not be longer than 20 feet, deeper than 6 feet or contain mesh size larger than 1/2 inch bar measurement.''
Then's one key other part:
``It is a violation of state law to import, possess, sell or use as bait live rusty crayfish within the State of Illinois. The rusty crayfish may be distinguished by a dark rusty spot on both sides of the carapace and a rusty-red band followed by a dark stripe on the large pincers (claws). This species destroys aquatic vegetation and eats the eggs of various fishes, which negatively affects fish reproduction.''
We stored them in a cooler with ice, a cooler emptied earlier of its root beer and Pepsi. The boys were surprisingly careful while sitting on that cooler around the fire.
Some days (some middle of the nights), I'm just glad to know a few kids willing to flip rocks and catch crayfish.
It's even worth being awakened.